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Missing in France

10 June 2016

IT IS perfectly possible to enjoy Ian Knox’s novel The Welcome Scream (CreateSpace, £8.99; 978-1-5052-3812-9) as a simple story with a happy ending, but if it has any deeper subtext, it is about the human need to know who you are and where you come from.

In the heady atmosphere of wartime London, Pierre, a member of de Gaulle’s Free French army, falls in love with an English girl before being sent on a mission to France. Terribly injured in a bomb blast, he eventually finds his way back to his family vineyard in Bordeaux with no memory of his past.

He marries his childhood sweetheart and has a child, but becomes increasingly troubled by the strange pictures in his head. His daughter, Petra Annette, insists on being known as Annie. She feels from her earliest childhood that Petra belongs to someone else.

Meanwhile, his English wife raises their son to revere the memory of his hero father. His idyllic 1950s childhood, complete with apple pie, The Archers, and summers at the seaside, is so vividly described that it must be the author’s own. After her death, Peter, now a very English solicitor, sets out to find his father’s family.

Knox is best known for his books Bereaved and Older People and the Church. This is his first sally into fiction, and he is not yet quite at ease with the genre. The prose is clunking. Every noun must have its adjective, usually a cliché. Hands are capable, sums are generous. None the less, his first-hand knowledge of France and Africa and his evident passion for rivers enable him to create convincing backdrops, and the plotting is so inventive that you forget the prose in the scramble to turn the page and find out what happens next. We look forward to his next one.

 

Fiona Hook is a writer and EFL teacher.

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